Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Wood Pigeon - Sous Vide

I ordered two wood pigeons, on-line, that had been shot in the wild in Scotland. 
The common wood pigeon.
In descriptions about the meat I read that it was "deep crimson in color" and had a "rich gamey flavor" and that it was "dark" and "delicate" and should be served "pink or rare." A British website with wood pigeon recipes said the pigeon was best with the breasts removed and "pan fried and served pink." 
Two raw wood pigeons. Note how dark the meat is.
Cut in half.
I have eaten pigeon before, in Chinese (both domestic and foreign) restaurants, but they are usually called "squab" and are domestic pigeons that are young and slaughtered  after they have reached full-size, but before they have flown. 

These wild-shot pigeons, although full-grown, were much smaller than the squab I've eaten in Chinese restaurants and the taste is off-the-charts different. I rate these birds as some of the gamiest meat I've ever eaten. 
Vacuum-sealed. One bag had butter added.
The bag with the birds in butter after cooking.
I decided to cook them sous vide and decided on 53 centigrade as the on-line recommendations were to eat it rare. I figured that a little longer in the water bath would soften it up, so I cooked them for 4 1/2 hours. I cut them in half, length-wise, coated them in olive oil with some salt and pepper, and in one batch (I put one bird in each vacuum-sealed bag) I also added some butter. 

Despite the long cooking time the birds were still very supple, yet difficult to cut. And the taste was very livery, more so than liver, with a bitter tinge to it. Neither Judy or I finished it, it was just too strong. 
Two sous vide pigeon halves with creamy mashed potatoes. Fortunately the mashed potatoes were very good. We didn't eat much of the pigeon. 
So I bagged up the birds, refrigerated them, and pulled them out the next day to try them again. This time I cut off much of the remaining breast meat (the other meat was just too difficult to remove) and microwaved it until it was warm. Then I salted it heavily and tried it again. It was still very livery and bitter, but both tastes were more muted, perhaps because of my heavy salting and because of the extra cooking. 
This left-over pigeon was cut up into pieces and then microwaved. That helped a little bit.
I would not eat pigeon this way again. It either needed to be cooked at a higher temperature and much longer in the sous vide, pan fried in thin slices, or marinated in something very strong that would neutralize the strong flavors. 


  1. It takes like liver? I would have thought chicken!

  2. Isn't it crazy that we can love iguana but dislike pigeon? Who would have guessed?

  3. Just cooking it today for the first time and ran into your article - haven't heard from anyone else mentioning it tastes livery - could this have been because you cooked the whole pigeon sous-vide which then allowed the liver's flavor to spread all over? All sous-vide recipes seem to only prepare the breast in a water bath. Just a supposition. I'll get back to you guys tonight after we cook it (although elected not to do it sous vide). Hopefully it's more squab than liver, as wife is not a fan of the liver flavor at all!